I’m on my fourteenth beanie. Things are starting to look obsessive. I’m certain that the Target employees and my fellow shoppers are concerned for me. Anything that isn’t embellished with sequins has made its way to the top of my head and been paraded in front of the tiny mirror. We’ve taken up residence of the accessory section long enough for Indigo to litter the aisle with fuzzy gloves and purses so small that grown women really shouldn't own them... and I’m not showing signs of stopping.
I’ve never been on a budget before, always having worked and been fortunate enough to make decent money. We’ve never Dave Ramsey’d it. No envelopes. Yet. There's never been a need to run a personal purchase by my husband. I do have some restraint. There are certainly tons of things I want that don’t come home with me. Being cheap is a beneficial roadblock to accumulation- my dad’s voice echoing in my head, “If it’s not on sale, then it’s not for sale.”
But, I don’t work anymore. It's been a really fun, rather indulgent year, and now it’s time to reel it in. I thought I’d been doing that, but as it turns out, my subdued version of shopping isn’t cutting it. The unexpected expenses now seem to be given monthly occurrences. This is an “absolutely no extras” situation until we get our shit together.
I’ve done this once before in years past, for a very short spell. Walking the aisles proved to be a losing battle. Just get the stuff on the list, don't veer from the periperhal, and hightail it outta there before catching a glimpse of anything Nate Berkus. It’s the home stuff and the little girl clothes, they make me weak in the knees every time.
But something else happened when I refrained for that month- a surprising and behemoth sense of relief. I didn’t have to search for things online to “make my life better” or my person “cuter.” There was no wrestling with myself about “should I or shouldn’t I," and no pressure to improve my situation, as defined in a completely material way.
So, when the budget crisis 2017 hit our house, I felt that same wave of relief take residence. I’d effectively removed the pressure to strive for more, but this time around I noticed a nagging feeling that I hadn't given the space for introspection before. I realized that when I become adrift from purpose and self-care, l try to recreate feelings of abundance and importance through shopping. Except, it's completely extrinsic in nature, and any good feelings it elicits are short-lived, which means more stuff needs to be bought on the regular. Controlling my environment is the obvious but ultimately inadequate stand-in for the lack of control, intention, and purpose I’m feeling internally.
Today I had pie and espresso for lunch. I skipped my workout. After six days of the stomach flu and house guests thereafter, the whole week had fallen into that vein, and then I went to Target and lost whatever morsel of self-control I had left. It’s an avalanche of mindless choices.
I craved it, the shopping, the spending, the hunt, the incongruity even. I dressed it up first- “Indigo needs a snow hat, and we need a bin to organize her toys.” But, since I’m outing myself, her old hat just requires mending and no one “needs” an organizational bin. Ever. Fucking Martha Stewart, planting her evil seeds in my head.
We walked around Target for two hours. Yes, two hours. I threw in a snow hat with kitty cat ears, I bought the damn gold polka dotted bin. And now here I am, in a mustard yellow beanie, batting my eyelashes at the mirror, feeling like I won’t be able to find it again in this weird hipster color if I don’t just do the damn thing. It’s $5. I’m justifying. I buy it. And a cream one too. Uffff, failure.
I get home and immediately announce to my husband that I’ve fallen off the wagon and just needed a fix. I try to validate my purchases to him, but I can’t even reason them to myself.
When we stop taking care of ourselves, when we don’t listen to our internal compasses, the slippery slope starts to form and it’s so easy to slowly slide down, sinking further into the deluge. The stuff and the poor choices all serve as distractions from the neglect of my inner voice.
Eating pie for lunch tasted good, but it didn’t feel good. Carrying the polka dotted bin full of stuff into the house didn’t bring purpose or mindfulness to my life. I know what self love looks like for me, which things bring me intrinsic abundance- building lego houses and making pretend cupcakes with my daughter, reading self-help books, meditating, getting outside, exercising, eating well, connecting with my husband… Shopping isn’t on that list. Often, making just one grand gesture on my own behalf is enough to careen me back towards my path of mindfulness and self-care.
So, I’m gonna pack the Target crap up, mend the beanie, go put in a workout DVD, eat sautéed kale salad for dinner, hope that the world goes on without ever having seen me in a mustard-colored beanie, and freeze the rest of the cherry pie.